MONTREAL -- Tourism in the Eastern Townships could take as long as two years to return to normal but Premier Francois Legault said help is on the way for ailing hotels in the region.

Speaking in Orford on Friday, Legault said a package involving both subsidies and loans for small and medium-sized hotels would be unveiled in the coming days. Legault would not say how much the package would be worth.

He noted that small and medium-sized hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts and inns make up an important part of the Eastern Townships' tourism industry and that he himself is planning on vacationing there at the end of July.

“I come from Montreal and we have two choices: going to the Eastern Townshipst or Laurentians,” he said. “We will announce a plan to help the tourism sector. It's very important for the homes and hotels that we help them financially to get through this crisis. This is an industry that had a lot of jobs and we want just as many soon. Quebecers will likely not go abroad for vacations soon so there is an opportunity here.”

“The big hotels, there will be restructuring,” he added. “Right now, there are debt holders who may have to contribute to the financial restructuring. We almost have to wait for that before the government can intervene.”


Legault praised health officials for their work containing COVID-19. During the early days of the pandemic, the area had almost as many cases as Montreal, which became the epicentre of the virus in Canada. As of Friday, the Estrie region, to which most of the Townships belong, has 943 of Quebec's 52,398 confirmed cases.

Legault said part of the reason for containment in the Townships was success in transferring healthcare workers to where they were most needed, such as CHSLDs.

“We weren't always able to succeed in transferring enough employees, especially in Montreal,” he said. “Here, it was done, not just in CHSLDs but in private residences. Second, it was trained staff who knew how to wear the personal protective equipment in order to not infect other people.”

The Premier said the Townships could act as a model for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“If there's a lesson to be drawn from all this, we have 80,000 people applying for 10,000 (healthcare) jobs. If there's a second wave in the fall, we won't end up with a lack of staff before the crisis even starts.”